Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rowan Berry Squares with Added Blueberries

This was certainly not what I thought I would spend my day doing today. When I got up I thought I wouldn't bother with anything, I had no ideas, I wanted to listen to the Ashes cricket and thought it would be a waste of time to go out and try to make something. Instead I would do some more work on my second book.

So I went for a stroll and in the wet and warm weather we have been having everything had grown. A lot. An awful lot.

Soon enough I was hiding in a bush examining berries and studying the leaves and grasses and my head was stuffed full with new ideas. I had an errand to run and nipped over to a friends house who has a fair bit of land. He said I could take some rock from a disused quarry to use for a sculpture I want to make in the garden. I parked a couple of miles away and walked. I selected some choice lumps of stone and shoved them in a strong bag and turned towards the car.

"Hang on, there is an even better one!" So I grabbed that too and put it in the bag.

Within minutes I had picked up even more and now had the maximum I could carry. And when I say carry I mean lift off the ground.

A friend of mine commutes to and works in California and likes to hike in the local hills. Once of his favourite activities is to jog back to his car after a long hike and when there are people around let out a loud "aaaahhhhh" as he finally stops. He then proceeds to pretend to unload the huge rocks, he has hidden in his boot/trunk, out of his pack to much consternation from anyone looking at him, as though he has just run down the mountain with those rocks on his back.

This seemed to be what I found myself doing. It has rained a lot this week and everything has grown as I said. Here I was two miles from my car, tramping through thick undergrowth, both shoes full of water and my trousers soaked right up to the waist. Oh yeah and carrying a bag full of rocks. This is not normal behaviour is it?

Do you ever get that feeling when you kind of have an out of body experience and can imagine what you might look like from the outside? Do you ever get this view of yourself and it shows you soaked through carrying a big bag of rocks through thick undergrowth? Do you then see this vision start to run with his bag of rocks so as to get back to the car quicker as the circulation is being cut off from his hands? Well it seems I get this vision all the time, perhaps I ought to seek some help.

So you artists out there, if you find yourself devoid of ideas, with writers block, lacking in enthusiasm and frustrated. Grab yourself a back of rocks, leaky shoes and a manic look and go for a jog through wet undergrowth (copyright escher's fitness plan). It works every time.

I don't think there is all that much to say about this sculpture other than it took a looooooong time to make (but of course I will still have lots to say). And when I finally had it done I was merrily snapping away and what did I find? One single-solitary-yellow-berry had broken rank and rolled away. There's always one! It was quickly ushered back in line so the show could carry on.

The real trick to something like this with berries is to choose a surface that is as flat as possible. The first time I did a berry sculpture the surface seemed pretty flat but it wasn't flat enough. Rowan berries are often two colours, one on one side and a different colour on the other. If you want to display a particular colour then you need to have one side pointing up and if they roll because the surface isn't flat enough then the effect is lost as they roll over again and again and show the wrong colour.

You can really back yourself into a corner trying to make something like this. Often you will be beyond half way, well beyond that point where you would want to dismantle it all and start again, and it gets more difficult and frustrating to finish than it did to start. As you adjust a section it knocks everything adjacent to it until you want to pull your hair out and if the surface is uneven and they keep rolling over it can drive you insane. But I don't like giving up on something once I've started and so I will battle against it trying to get it done. That first rowan berry sculpture was a complete nightmare and was enormously frustrating to complete.

So this time I carefully selected a flat slab. Even the tiniest blemish could result in you not being able to place each berry where you would like. The first row went on just so and I thought it wasn't going to give me trouble. Well guess what I am going to say now?


The third and fourth rows had some of those tiny blemishes and there were quite a number of places where they would not sit without rolling. When that happens you have to block them in with other berries and you enter the territory where one false move would move the whole lot. Several times I tapped an already finished square and had to rebuild it sighing all the time. But as always I got there in the end.


ArtPropelled said...

Another hit for me. Richard this is stunning! Glorious colours.

Richard Shilling said...

Thanks Robyn.

Katherine said...

Beautiful sculpture Richard. Now why would you be expecting normal behavior
from a guy that goes out in nature and makes art with it???? Keep up the abnormality!!!